The economy in Britain and much of the world is in dire straits and it would not be an exaggeration to say we have entered a period of history that far from being a ‘crisis of capitalism’, historians looking back may well call it the ‘crisis of regulatory statism’.
And that is what makes the current UK elections… and indeed the recent US election… so utterly uninteresting.
Political parties on both sides of the imaginary left/right divide are in near total agreement that question at hand is not “how do we change the state of affairs that got us into our current predicament” but rather “how do we manage this crisis best in order to preserve the status quo”. The one thing that everyone in politics agrees on is Britain’s vast regulatory welfare state is an immovable given. This is literally beyond debate and exists at the meta-contextual level …all that is actually up for discussion is how best to preserve it.
Commentary in the mainstream media accepts as axiomatic that the parties represent the struggle between laissez faire and regulation, between capital and labour, between right (whatever that means) and left (whatever that means).
Indeed the parties themselves employ the same rhetorical markers to differentiate their products as they have always done: the so-called ‘conservatives’ speak of “prudence” and “responsibility” and “living within our means”… Labour and the LibDems speak in terms of “fairness” and “equality”… and these terms are simply accepted at face value and repeated by most of the media as if the choices on offer were between chalk and cheese, and as all the parties benefit from this differentiation, this linguistic legerdemain is unchallenged and uncontroversial.
Yet the choices on offer are in truth more akin to that between Coke or Pepsi… the ‘sacred rite of democratic empowerment’ actually comes down to being given the option of selecting rapist A, B or C and then being told not to complain when you get raped because, after all, you got to vote.
And so we see the media portraying David Cameron as Thatcher the Milk Snatcher reborn… a dangerous welfare wrecker when he states that he intends to, and I quote from a Daily Telegraph article last year:
Mr Cameron said he would increase government spending from £620bn this year to £645bn next year – rather than the £650bn proposed by ministers. He warned voters not to expect an incoming Tory administration to slash public spending and cut taxes, saying: “That’s not what they should be thinking. They should be thinking this would be a responsible government that would make government live within its means, that would relieve some of the debt burden being piled up on our children.”
So the Tory party, those slash-and-burn laissez faire wildmen, wanted to take £25 billion more out of the productive economy in taxes so that the state can spend it… at a time when the economy is actually contracting… and somehow that will relieve rather than increase the burden on “our children”. Yup, clearly an ardent capitalist is our Old Dave… it must be so because the media reports him saying he is all for markets largely without comment.
But the core truth here is that if by some dark miracle Brown’s Labour wins, we will have a vast regulatory welfare state. If the even more spendthrift LibDems win, we will have a vast regulatory welfare state. However if Cameron’s Tories win, we will have… a vast regulatory welfare state… oh, and fox hunting will be permitted again.
And yet the idea that there are meaningful differences between any of these gits is a given even though all they are really discussing is how their different approaches to rearranging the same elements can preserve the very state that got us where we are now. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic comes to mind.
Nigel Farage of UKIP at least talks of sacking two million public sector workers and having a bonfire of the QUANGOs… making him the only half way visible politician making any truly radical statements at all. Sadly Farage also seems to think “quantitative easing”… i.e. just running the printing presses in order to re-inflate the very credit bubble that has been the trigger for much of the current woes, is just fine and dandy, so I do question his grasp of economics, not to mention causality… but by the standards of current discourse he is Ludwig Von Mises reborn and perhaps in time Pearson can smack some sense into him on that score.
But UKIP will not be running the next parliament and so it does not matter which of the three plonkers you vote for because in effect the same person will still be in 10 Downing Street: and that would be the ring-wraith-like presence of Tony Blair of course… or Tory Blair if you like… the name and party hardly matters because that grin remains like some demonic Cheshire Cat in the sky over Westminster.
What did you say your name was again?